By Logan Johnson, Youth Exchange and Youth Protection Promotions and Engagement Specialist at Rotary International
A few years ago, volunteers of the Rotary Youth Exchange program were sending thousands of students around the globe each year to learn new languages, discover new cultures, and become global citizens. Then COVID-19 brought almost every aspect of the program to a screeching halt. Like many other aspects of Rotary, the program found new life online with virtual exchanges, which offered a safe alternative to in-person exchanges.
But many anticipated the return of in-person exchanges, and as of May 2022 in-person exchanges were planned and are happening worldwide for the first time in over two years!
What does it mean to tell a story about Rotary Youth Exchange?
To both celebrate its return and shine a light on the program, I worked with my colleagues at Rotary International to create a video that captured the spirit of Rotary Youth Exchange.
Our goal was simple: make a video that inspires people to participate in the program by showing a holistic view of the program and its variety of participants.
The spirit of Rotary Youth Exchange lies in its students, who are inspired to go abroad to live and learn while immersed in a new culture. Their story is a full circle, from the initial goodbyes to parents, to the many experiences on exchange, and eventually being welcomed back home.
So, who else participates in the program other than students?
So many other people are necessary to make the program successful! There are Rotary members who facilitate exchanges and help students at every stage of their exchange; host families who often take in a series of students over the course of an exchange period; and the many teachers, parents, tutors, counselors, and more that all volunteer their time and make each exchange unique.
We were certain that the story we wanted to tell had to capture at least some of each of those participants and leaders centered around the student experience. As you watch the video, you’ll notice the student surrounded by those that support them – parents, teachers, and Rotary members – all are vital participants that make the program successful.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, take a minute to watch it and share it with others!
Ultimately, this video is just a brief glimpse at one portrayal of Rotary Youth Exchange. Learn more about the program on Rotary.org